Inside the Collection

Chinese New Year 2012: Year of the Dragon

Colourful ceramic Dragon or lion
97/92/15-11 Dragon or lion, ceramic, part of personal effects, Wong family, Australia, 1880-1930 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Sydney holds the largest Lunar New Year festival outside Asia, where communities from Asia celebrate the first day of the first lunar month of the year. Lunar or Chinese New Year falls on 23 January this year, with celebration lasting 15 days, until the first full moon appears.

It’s a time for renewal, family gatherings, eating rich foods and paying respect to your ancestors and elders. Sydneysiders have become familiar with the festival of the new year celebrated with dragon boats races, lions dances and night markets, creating a festival atmosphere, particularly in Chinatown and Ultimo communities.

Red Lanterns hung in Market city shopping centre
Chinese new year celebrations, Chinatown in haymarket, Sydney, Image: Sotha Bourn, Powerhouse Museum

The Year of 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, the fifth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 Animal signs. More specifically it is the year of the water dragon a creature of myth and legend and in ancient China, the celestial Dragon represented an emperor and power. Today, it is the ultimate symbol for success and happiness.

Snuff bottle, famille-rose enamelled porcelain
A4034-4 Snuff bottle, famille-rose enamelled porcelain, maker unknown, China, Qianlong reign (1736-1795) of Qing dynasty. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

The origin of the Chinese dragon is not certain. The presence of dragon in Chinese culture can dates back several thousands of years with the discovery of a dragon statue dating back to the fifth millennium BC from the Yangshao culture in Henan in 1987, and jade badges of rank in coiled form have been excavated from the Hongshan culture circa 4700-2900 BC.
The dragon and other symbols of good luck are represented within the Museum’s collection.

Glass lantern slide with detailed dragons in an ocean setting
2010/75/1-6 Glass lantern slide, Jiulong Bi (Nine-Dragon-Screen) in Beihai Park, hand coloured glass / metal, made by Serge Vargassoff, Peking, China, 1920-1949. Collecton : Powerhouse Museum

Like this lantern slide taken by the Russian-born photographer Serge Vargassoff (1906-1965) who established himself as a professional photographer at the age of 20, in Peking (Beijing), China and became a long-term resident of the city. The slide shows a panel depicting a pair of dragons playing in the clouds. They are the two of the nine dragons on the Jiulong Bi (Nine-Dragon-Screen) in Beihai Park, Peking. This large glazed stone screen was built in 1756 and is one of three screens of the same kind in China. The screen is decorated on both sides with nine dragons playing in the clouds.
The Museum will hold activities to celebrate Chinese new year.

One response to “Chinese New Year 2012: Year of the Dragon

  • I enjoy what you guys are up too. This sort of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve included you guys to my blogroll.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *